EVERETT — A recent move downtown for the Everett Farmers Markets resulted in easier access and parking for many attendees. But for market owners, it was likely a business decision: They were given the choice of paying $2,000 for parking management or relocate.
Tension had brewed all season over a new $2 parking fee, some of it over having to pay to park. Other complaints stemmed from the time in line it took for the fee to be collected. At least one Sunday, lines at most times stretched about 30 minutes, according to texts and emails between an Everett Farmers Market owner and the Port of Everett.
The Daily Herald received the communications through a public records request.
In mid-July, port officials blamed a TV news story and comments on social media, which they said led to extremely abusive and aggressive behavior toward workers from the company hired to collect the $2 parking fee. That left the market with the choice of paying the hefty parking management fee or moving downtown, according to the messages.
“Everything had come to a head,” said Catherine Soper, spokesperson for the port. “It was just another rough parking day.”
The $2,000 charge, which covers the payment the port pays to the parking management company for the Sunday event, would have replaced the $2 parking fee, Soper said. Other options were also given, she said, such as spreading out the market into several areas.
The bottlenecks created by the 1,500-2,000 cars coming to the market each week isn’t new, Soper said.
The market spends about $800 each week directing traffic, according to the messages. This does not include the cost of the labor needed to set out barricades and signs, and to maintain the white stripping of the individual stalls.
On July 19, it was announced that the market would move to Wetmore Avenue between Hewitt Avenue and Wall Street.
The new space is a win for the community, Soper said, because it’s more walkable and allows the market to grow.
Mayor Cassie Franklin said the move downtown went smoothly.
“Government isn’t always known for moving fast,” she said in an email. “With hard work and passion, big things can happen quickly.”
In 2016, the port began charging $2 for parking during large events, but didn’t include the market and a few other special events in the change. The port has said the fee was needed to manage parking on the site and ensure access to other waterfront amenities.
This year was the first time the charge was implemented at the market. The new fee was met with frustrated market attendees and vendors.
As emotions grew, the port said it needed to hire an off-duty police officer for four Sundays to “ensure order was maintained.”
Gary Purves, co-owner and manager of the Everett Farmers Market, described the season so far as “long and disquieting,” in messages with the port.
Business was down he wrote in an email to the port, causing the market to lay off at least two employees.
“It is clearly obvious customer visits are off substantially from last year,” said Purves in a June 24 email. “I know this because I spent nearly all my time in the parking lots directing traffic.”
He acknowledged many factors contributed to attendance, such as weather, availability of fruits and produce, the whims of the public and when the Seahawks are playing.
Purves declined to comment for this story.
The market had moved to Boxcar Park several years ago from its longtime home along West Marine View Drive near Lombardi’s restaurant. That location was meant to be temporary. A new spot was already being discussed for the 2020 season before the sudden move in August.